The outbreak of the new coronavirus has been described as “an emerging, rapidly evolving situation” by the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said more information was needed to evaluate the full extent of the mode of transmission.
HSE assistant national director of public health and child health, Kevin Kelleher, warned the virus could evolve rapidly.
Dr Kelleher said all deaths to date had been in older people who had other serious underlying health conditions.
The World Health Organisation said the outbreak was detected because China has a system that picks up severe lower respiratory infections.
WHO's risk assessment is that the outbreak is a very high risk in China, and a high risk regionally and globally.
HPSC director John Cuddihy said the centre had issued guidelines to Irish airports on managing travellers who might be infected.
Dr Cuddihy said the HSE's High Consequences Infectious Diseases Committee had been meeting daily since the outbreak was detected.
Testing is available at the National Virus Reference Laboratory and the current turnaround time of 24 hours is likely to be reduced in the next few days.
Dr Kelleher said that as well as devising tests to confirm the disease, experts are beginning to discover the best form of treatment.
HSE assistant national director of acute operations Robert Morton said the national ambulance service had tested procedures for working with airport authorities earlier this week.
In the event of someone arriving at an airport who is at “high risk” of being infected, an instant response team will go out and isolate the patient.
Mr Morton said the team would make sure there is a “safe and controlled delivery” of the patient to hospital.
Dr Kelleher said the pilot was obliged under international health regulations to let the ambulance service know that a passenger was ill.
Chief executive of the Irish Travel Association Pat Dawson said the coronavirus outbreak was “worrying” and they are keeping an eye on developments “by the hour.”
Mr Dawson said it could dissuade people from travelling if the outbreak was not confined.
Meanwhile, an Irish man living in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak is believed to have originated,
Ben Kavanagh, a high school teacher, was asked during an interview on RTÉ radio what it was like to be living in a city under lockdown.
“It is hard to describe because there is nothing I can compare it to other than what you might see in the movies,” said the Kildare man.
He said he went to a shop to buy essential food items wearing a mask and goggles.
“When I got into the lift there was a Chinese guy already there. We subconsciously stood in opposite corners as far away from each other as possible.”
When he got to the shop he found that there was plenty of food and water.
Mr Kavanagh said he had heard that schools and other businesses in the city were closed indefinitely.
A flight he had booked out of Wuhan next week has been cancelled.
“I hope it does not go on for another three months like SARS but I would not be surprised.”
Mr Kavanagh said he has reassured his family he is as safe as he can be and is not going outside unless he has to.